DELIUS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 3; RUBBRA: Violin Sonata No. 2 – Albert Sammons, violin/Evelyn Howard-Jones, piano/ Kathleen Long, piano (Delius Sonata No. 3)/Gerald Moore, piano (Rubbra) – Dutton

by | Feb 19, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

DELIUS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 3; RUBBRA: Violin Sonata No. 2 – Albert Sammons, violin/Evelyn Howard-Jones, piano/ Kathleen Long, piano (Delius Sonata No. 3)/Gerald Moore, piano (Rubbra)

Dutton CDBP 9768,  66:25 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

Violinist Albert Sammons (1886-1957) occupies a special place in British music-making, his big tone and big technique having brought many works of Elgar, Bax, Delius, and Rubbra into the world. The lovely, quiet inscription (4 November 1929) of the Delius First Sonata glides along so smoothly, it more than belies its age. Modal, yet sweetly lyrical with touches from Debussy and perhaps Roussel, the piece evokes a wistful, rhapsodic ardor. Oddly, this inscription has remained suppressed until now; only a slightly edited version with May Harrison and Arnold Bax had been available at the time Sammons stepped into the recording studio at the end of the Beecham Delius Festival of 1929.  A thin, wiry beauty suffuses the expansive last movement, marked by a heavy-footed, dark progression in the keyboard part. Sammons’ instrument was a Matteo Goffriller, a large-toned instrument from which Sammons could elicit a viola sonority when he wanted it. 

Sammons and Evelyn Howard-Jones gave the premier of the Second Sonata of Delius 7 October 1924. Their acoustic recording from December of that year suffers the usual sonic distance and hollow reverberation of the technology; still, a decided warmth of string tone counters the clangor of the piano’s upper register. A Brahmsian flavor–short, motivic bits in sequence–permeates the opening movement, cross-fertilized by Debussy’s modal procedures. Intimate, cleanly poised, the music manages to ingratiate the ear despite the acoustic origin–doubtless a tribute to Dutton’s CEDAR process. The Molto vivace finale proves more angular than the two prior movements, perhaps touched by Franck’s example in his A Major Sonata. It sounds like a passionate epilogue, several times hinting at the motives from the opening Con anima movement.

The addition of the 20 January 1944 collaboration of the Third Sonata with Kathleen Long allows us access to all of Sammons’ traversals of the Delius sonatas: the influence of the Gallic sensibility, perhaps Faure, marks this three-movement, melancholic work, in which–in the Slow opening–the piano alternates a staccato series of declamations with arpeggiated washes of color.  A weak smile inhabits the two-bar scherzando, in which the piano plays a quasi-cadenza section of some length, akin to the piano part in Franck’s sonata. The da capo skips along, a touch of demure pain making itself felt. The piece concludes with a somber Lento that breaks into a shadowy Con Moto, the affect close to the impressionistic, post-romantic, languid music of Loeffler. 

Rubbra composed his Second Sonata in 1939; this recording dates 16 April 1946, the last Sammons made before Parkinson’s disease stole his gifts.  A hint of Irish folk melody floats through the opening movement–redolent with Debussy and Ravel–reedy and luminous at once. The coda evolves into a perky etude for both parts. The Lament might be construed as a dirge for the troubled times which surrounded this piece, the eve of the Second World War. Cleanly, articulately rendered, the movement projects a haunted power. The final Allegro is marked to be played “stridently and very rhythmic,” enjoys a rough-hewn motor element that quite has one in its grip. A contemporary critic referred to the emotional tenor of the movement as “healthy ferocity.” The impeccable artistry of Gerald Moore – the Unashamed Accompanist – keeps apace of Sammons’ artful maneuvers in a vivid recording which collectors will cherish having.

— Gary Lemco
 

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